How a Solstice Gathering Sparked Ritual, Communion, and Burning Man

Wherever you are today at 57 minutes after this hour, welcome the solstice. This celestial moment marks the day we honor Burning Man’s inception 37 years ago — the first time Larry Harvey, Jerry James, their kids, and friends built and burned a wooden Man on Baker Beach. 

Burning a human effigy, and celebrating the solstice on a beach gathering are not revolutionary acts unto themselves; humanity has created these moments and imbued them with meaning since before recorded history. But the impetus that brought these two acts together ignited something new (and also ancient) in those early Burners. Maybe it soothed unmet desires for ritual, communion and continuity at a time when people were feeling increasingly disconnected.

The Man on Baker Beach, 1989 (Photo by Stewart Harvey)

By 1990, the original crew merged with the Cacophony Society and other instigators, and engineered a leap from beach to desert. Before long Burners were building massive fiery art and other wonders, organizing theme camps, erecting a Temple, and piloting wildly illuminated mutant vehicles.

In short, we had a city. And then we had a global community — Burners around the world made the 10 Principles their own, launching Regional Events and local Burning Man communities.

So, happy solstice to you. We hope you make time to commemorate this moment in whatever way is meaningful. Perhaps take a gander at our 365 Field Guide for tips on bringing Burning Man into your corner of the universe — on the solstice or any time. Around here today, we pause to remember Larry Harvey, our original instigator. He was a prolific reader and writer; his words are foundational to how Burning Man emerged as a global culture and community. 

“Larry had no idea what he was starting when he lit that first fire on Baker Beach. It was an act of creation for its own sake, a sort of cultural big bang that would only acquire context through being. From the first person who was drawn to that flame to the most recent, wherever they may be in the world, we all add our own energy, and that primal act of ignition continues to accrete meaning through attraction. This is how culture is created. This is how a fire keeps burning.”Stuart Mangrum, Director of Burning Man Project’s Philosophical Center

Learn More About Larry Harvey, the History of Burning Man, and Our Connection with the Solstice:

Read Previous Years’ Solstice Posts:

Cover image of Baker Beach, 1989 (Photo by Stewart Harvey)

About the author: Burning Man Project

Burning Man Project

The official voice of the Burning Man organization, managed by Burning Man Project's Communications Team.

9 Comments on “How a Solstice Gathering Sparked Ritual, Communion, and Burning Man

  • Anna says:

    Thank You for this beautiful read.
    Happy Solstice everybody!
    I love Burning Man.

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  • Veloso johanne says:

    Mon rêve, serait de pouvoir vivre cette connection et communion humaine. Un rêve qui se réalisera peut être un jour.

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  • Delmer Buddy Totten says:

    I first heard of Burning Man in 1995 when i was with a good friend in Santiago Cuba filming a documentary. We went to Santiago for Carnival and we came upon a yearly ritual where they burn an effigy of the the Devil (Quema del Diablo) and dance around moving in circle playing traditional music. My friend said he couldn’t wait to show the footage to Larry and his Mom because it is just like the Man. I went to BRC for the first time that year and it was amazing! Happy Solstice everyone, and thank you Larry!

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  • Alexandra Laqueur says:

    Thank you

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  • Indya Liverpool says:

    Happy Birth of The Burning Man.
    Gratitude’s to Solstice…
    So awesome ~ manifesting to get there !
    Love and Light

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  • Tailgate says:

    Thank you so much and Happy Solstice to everyone! I can’t wait to continue the tradition this year ♥

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  • Bob Gridley (Zeus) says:

    I’m Zeus.I remember sneaking the Man down the back stairs at Baker Beach and year number 2. We stuffed the Man before the first burn in Gerlach in my Pacifica back yard. Such great memories! BTW Larry was the mutant God in Cacophony Society’s Atomic Cafe event.
    You should have my photos from year 2 in Lady Bee’s desk or her next in command if she still works on the project. Happy solstice.The moon, Venus and Mars are in a straight line tonight.

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    • Andie Grace, producer says:

      Zeus/Bob, I am at work on an official archive of stories and histories about Burning Man, and I sure would like to talk to you and hear yours. Can I persuade you to contact us at to speak a bit more? You are remembered!

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